March 30, 2013

Superman Saturday: Intense, high explosive dynamite, pure dynamite

It is Easter weekend, but even if I get a four-day weekend, that doesn't mean Evil takes a holiday. Fortunately for Truth, Justice and the American way, neither does Superman. This week, we conclude the adventure of Buffalo Hills!

The story so far: Clark Kent has travelled to the Western state capital of Boulder City, to cover the unveiling ceremony of Buffalo Hills, a stand-in for Mount Rushmore. He is accompanied by naturalist and photographer Asa Hatch, who is also a freelance correspondent for the Daily Planet and friend of editor Perry White.

Pete Flores, a gangster that opposes the political reforms of state governor Al Carson, has already made several attempts on the life of Carson as well as an attempted shooting of Hatch. He tried to bomb Clark Kent's and Hatch's train while en route to Boulder City, but failed when his henchman was stopped by Superman. His inside man at the executive mansion, Carson's secretary Keegan, succeeded in having Hatch framed and jailed, although Clark evaded arrest. Later he turned himself in, hoping to break Hatch out, but instead became the cellmate of another of Flores' gang members, who revealed a plan to abduct and murder the governor.

As Superman, Clark broke out of jail and tried to warn the governor of the kidnapping plot, but had do knock him out and stuff him into his own closet, assuming his Superman persona and taking Carson's place in bed. As expected, Flores' goons broke into the mansion and, unaware that they had taken the wrong man, tried to kill Superman by throwing him off a bridge. Knowing that governor Carson was still in danger from Flores, Superman rushed back to the mansion only to find the closet empty . . .

Episode 44: Buffalo Hills, Part 5 (1940/05/22)

Listen!

Superman is still hurriedly searching the governor's mansion after finding the closer where he had stashed Carson empty, although there was no damage to the door. He hears a noise, and hurriedly changes to Clark Kent. It's the governor—and Asa Hatch. Apologies and forgiveness are tendered all round. Clark explains what happened to him when he was kidnapped (leaving out any Superman-related details, of course) Carson reveals what has been going on off-mike since the previous episode. He banged on the door of the closet and yelled until he attracted the attention of a guard, then, unable to phone the police due to the lines being cut, drove to police headquarters. While there, he spotted Hatch and had him released, thus depriving all us True Believers with another level of suspense. Clark again warns the governor to be careful, as he knows that the Flores gang has further plans for him, and he and Hatch try to talk him out of appearing at the Buffalo Hills dedication, though of course he refuses.

At that moment, Lieutenant Maxim, a guard at the monument, arrives with a message for the governor: Colonel Bowles, the superintended in complete charge of the site, has asked Maxim to bring the governor back to the monument site with him. When they can't talk Carson out of going, Hatch and Clark decide to tag along. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, Carson's secretary Keegan has secretly stashed a small device in Maxim's car.

As they drive to the site on the winding mountain roads, Hatch and Carson fall asleep, followed shortly by Maxim—who, unfortunately, is driving. Clark is fortunately not affected by the influence of Keegan's device, and so he is able to save the car when it crashes through the guardrail and over the cliff. For some reason, Clark/Superman waits until the car has finished crashing down the hillside and flown over the edge of a thousand-foot cliff before jumping out and racing the vehicle to the bottom, where he catches it in the nick of time and flies it back up to the road. A few minutes later, Hatch, Carson and Maxim wake up to see Clark driving an audibly damaged car.

When they arrive at the monument site, they find the lights on at the colonel's office, but there is no answer at the door. They break in and find Bowles dead at his desk . . .

What danger awaits Governor Carson?

What did Colonel Bowles know that someone didn't want the governor to hear?

Does it matter? Because they never discuss it again.

Episode 45: Buffalo Hills, Part 6 (1940/05/24)

Listen!

It is now two days later, on the morning of the dedication ceremony. Hatch and Clark are again, unsuccessfully, trying to talk Governor Carson out of appearing, but Carson accuses Clark of not presening one single piece of convincing evidence that he is in any danger. Except for three attempts on his own life, one on Hatch's in Metropolis, an unsuccessful train bombing, a jailbreak, an attempted kidnapping and drowning, the murder of the monument site superintendent, and two other watchmen that have "fallen off the base [sic] of the cliff" and for some reason died anyway. A mere pittance; regard them not. Carson points out tha Hatch has been taking pictures of the site and not spotted anything odd, and with 15,000 people present for the ceremonies, it's the least he can do.

However, in a tunnel in the cliff, Pete Flores and Dutchy Ganz are planting dyamite charges inside the mountain. While the governor is making his speech, Flores will set the charges off, and bury not only Carson, but the entire crowd, under a massive rock avalanche. As for Flores and Dutchy, they will have three minutes to escape in their car.

Hatch and Clark look for clues of suspicious activity. While they wait for the ceremony to begin, Hatch shows Clark some of the photos he has taken of the monument. They notice the car on the cliff, and Clark not only spots it still there, but recognizes it as the one used to kidnap him. He makes an excuse to get away from Hatch, changes to Superman, and flies up to the top of the cliff.

Landing at the top of the cliff, Superman recognizes Dutchy, who spills the entire plan rather than be subjected to another super-thumping. Quickly Superman flies down the tunnel and confronts Flores, but it's too late: he has already set off the charges! Superman rushes outside again, and beating the avalanche to the cliff's edge, deflects the entire rockslide into a gully, saving the monument, the governor, and the crowd!

Superman returns to the ground and resumes his Clark Kent persona, learning from the governor that no one was hurt in the rockslide. Hatch points out, however, that the car at the top of the cliff was gone. Whoever was in it must have been buried under the rocks. Clark remarks that Pete Flores will never bother the governor again, and goes off in search of a telegraph to wire his story back to Metropolis.

And that's that. "Buffalo Hills" had the potential to be a good serial, but unfortunately suffered from some bad writing, including two botched cliffhangers, like the preceding story. I hope this isn't going to get to be a habit.

Next week: An all-new Superman adventure, this time in the high Arctic. Stay tuned!